Outfest Honoree Amandla Stenberg Skips Opening Night Gala in Support of SAG-AFTRA Strike

The SAG-AFTRA strike didn’t officially start until just after midnight on Friday, but Amandla Stenberg skipped the opening night of Outfest L.A. on Thursday in support of the movement.

The star of the upcoming “Star Wars” series “The Acolyte” was expected to be on hand to receive the Platinum Maverick Award from the LGBTQ film festival, but Jacqueline Castel, director of the actor’s new indie, “The Animal,” accepted it on her behalf.

“Amandla is deeply honored and would love to be here to celebrate with you, but she cannot be here today due to her support of the actors strike,” Castel said.

Earlier in the evening, SAG-AFTRA tweeted its support of Outfest going ahead with its plans for opening night. “Reminder: the #SAGAFTRAstrike starts at 12:01 a.m. on July 14,” the tweet read. “#SAGAFTRAmembers can support #OutfestLA tonight. We’ll support each other on the #SAGAFTRAstrike picket lines tomorrow.”

Outfest executive director Damien S. Navarro told Variety he believes one of the reasons the strike didn’t start until Friday was because the union didn’t want to disrupt opening night. “We had Fran Drescher at the Legacy Awards last year,” Navarro said. “We know that we’re on their radar. The fact that it sounds like we may have been a big decision on when they started it is pretty emotional.”

“Fire Island” director Andrew Ahn was in attendance to receive this year’s Outfest Achievement Award. “This festival means so much to me,” Ahn told Variety. “I grew up as a young filmmaker coming to Outfest. I went to my first gay Korean film at Outfest in 2007. My shorts played here. I just owe so much of my career to Outfest.”

The opening night film was director Aitch Alberto’s queer coming-of-age drama, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.” While Alberto’s cast was in the theater, they did not join the director on stage in a show of support of the actors strike.

Lío Mehiel, who was the first trans actor to win Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award at this year’s festival for their work in “Mutt,” said they were planning to picket Friday at Netflix’s offices in Hollywood. “The powers that be, I think they’re starting to sweat in their boots in a way that we need them to be,” Mehiel said. “They didn’t think SAG had the balls to strike. So now that their stars — their shiny talent, who are making them millions — have walked and the people who write the stories are already on the streets, they’re going to have to make some shifts.”

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